If you look at the back of any Canadian coin you will see an image of Queen Elizabeth II. She is officially Canada’s Head of State, and this is important from a Christian point of view.
At her coronation service, Queen Elizabeth took an explicitly Christian oath to uphold the Law of God and maintain Protestant Christianity. This means that the person at the center of constitutional authority in Canada is formally bound to Christianity and not to any other religion or worldview.
According to the “letter of the law,” the Queen is very powerful in Canada. In reality, she is more of a figurehead and does not actually exercise that power. But on paper, in the actual wording of the document, she holds a lot of power.
Under the section on Executive Power in The Constitution Act, 1867, the following is stated: “The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” Not only that, but “The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.”
This is the current authoritative Constitution of Canada. Formally, the monarch holds the power of the executive branch of the Canadian government, and he or she is also the commander in chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
From a Christian perspective this is very significant because the Queen provides a direct institutional connection between Christianity and Canada’s political system. The connection becomes especially clear by examining the Coronation Service for the installation of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1953.
Much of the service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest prelate in the Church of England. In one place the Archbishop asked Elizabeth:
“Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?
“Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant reformed religion established by Law?
“Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England and the doctrine, worship, discipline and government thereof as by Law established in England?
To these questions Elizabeth replied, “All this I promise to do.”
Then she laid her right hand upon the Bible and swore, “The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep, so help me God.”
Then she kissed the Bible, and signed the Oath, after which the Archbishop said, “To keep your majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.”
Carefully note that Canada’s Head of State took an oath to maintain the Law of God to the utmost of her power. She has clearly violated this oath, as well as others, but she is still accountable to the oath. Canada’s Head of State is formally bound, by her own words, to uphold God’s Law.
Subsequently in the service, Matthew 22:15 was read, the Nicene Creed was recited, a hymn sung, and then Elizabeth was anointed by the Archbishop.
As he anointed her Queen he stated, “As Solomon was anointed King by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet, so be Thou anointed, blessed and consecrated Queen over the peoples whom the Lord Thy God hath given Thee to rule and govern.”
Next, the Archbishop presented the Sword of State saying,
“. . . that she may not bear this sword in vain but may use it as the minister of God for the terror and punishment of evil doers and for the protection and encouragement of those that do well.
“With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss and confirm what is in good order. That doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life that you may reign forever with him in the life which is to come.”
Much else also took place during the ceremony, but from this brief summary it should be clear that Canada’s Head of State is an explicitly Christian monarch.
For most of Canada’s history, the so-called “separation of church and state” was a foreign concept. Legally, it didn’t begin to take hold here until modern American liberal jurisprudence was imported into Canada as a result of Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms being adopted in 1982.
Take a look at the back of the coins in your pocket or purse and remember the oath made by the lady whose image you see. She is an important reminder of Canada’s Christian heritage.